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Wednesday, 26 December 2007 00:00

Pinnacle Park's future

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By Jennifer Garlesky • Staff Writer

Sylva Town Board members are brainstorming for ways to manage Pinnacle Park, 1,100 acres of land located at the northern part of town that is widely used by locals for hiking and camping.

Earlier this year, the town’s former watershed was put into a permanent conservation easement with the help of $3.5 million from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

Sylva town leaders are now responsible for maintaining the park, which is close to town but located in a remote location at the end of Fisher Creek Road.

Pinnacle Park is a very primitive area, said Jay Coward, president of the Pinnacle Park Foundation for the past 15 years. One brown sign tells hikers that they have made it to their destination. There are no other markings to tell visitors where the trailhead begins for the East Fork or West Fork trails. Luckily, both trails meet up at Black Rock, which features an amazing view.

The Pinnacle Park Foundation formed in the mid-1990s has been raising money and overseeing the park’s maintenance. Coward is pleased that the town board will be managing the park.

“We have always advocated there be a permanent prohibition from resource extraction or development, and this ensures that,” he said.

With the park now under the town’s stewardship, there is a much better chance that more expensive infrastructure projects — such as a picnic area or a shelter — could be built, said Coward.

Coward also says the foundation plans to continue to be involved with the park’s conservation by assisting town leaders with trail development and applying for grant funding for additional signage.

At the Dec. 20 Sylva town board meeting, aldermen discussed the possibility of expanding the foundation board.

“It’s a jewel and we need to do the highest and best for it,” Mayor Brenda Oliver said. “I’d like for us to get enough people together that we cover all the aspects of it to protect it and not destroy it.”

The whole board agreed with Oliver.

Alderwoman Sarah Graham suggested that the foundation transition into a friends group similar to organizations like the Friends of the Smokies. By creating this type of organization it will spur more community involvement, Graham said.

“I think there’s a whole lot of interest in the community to serve on that board,” Graham said.

Alderman Maurice Moody agreed.

“I think that would be a good idea,” he said. “I want to include as much of the public as I can in using it.”

Some of the issues that town board members will need to decided is if the park will allow\ a variety of recreational uses — such as mountain biking trails and horseback riding — or if it will only be open to hikers.

But before these issues are addressed, Coward says that some of the park’s trails are in need of repair.

Erosion has caused some wear and tear. Members of the foundation have met with the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee River, who have suggested that a plan be developed to reduce erosion. The land trust has been helping town board members and the foundation with the park management.

Next month town board members plan to meet with foundation members to discuss the park’s future. A special meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on January 3 at town hall.

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